Contending for the Truth
Bible Reading: Jude 1
Jude 3, “Contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.”
The title for Jude’s epistle is taken from his name. Jude was the brother of James and Jesus (Matthew 13:55; Mark 6:3). Jude wrote to warn of those who had “crept in unnoticed” into the church to promulgate their false teachings (Jude 4). These false teachers were “perverting the grace of our God into sensuality” and denying “our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ” (Jude 4). For this reason, it was especially important for those who shared in a “common salvation” to contend for the faith.
The word “contend” translates a Greek term meaning to struggle. It speaks of the intense effort that would be extended in a wrestling match (1 Corinthians 9:25). The verb is in the present tense, implying a continuous action. The need to contend arises because a battle for truth exists and has existed since the fall. Believers are as Christian soldiers enlisted to contend for truth against an onslaught of falsehood. None can opt-out of this battle because to not contend is to yield ground to the enemy is who ever-working to deceive and destroy.
“The faith” refers not to faith in the subjective sense, but rather the body of core doctrinal truths on which the church is founded and to which it adheres to even to this day (Ephesians 2:19-20; 4:4-6). These truths are essential both to the salvation of souls and the spiritual growth and well-being of the church. The “church of the living God, a pillar and buttress of truth” forsakes its privileged role to the extent it fails to fight for truth (1 Timothy 3:15).
Jude stressed that this faith has been delivered to the church “once for all” (Jude 3). It is not subject to revision or change. False teachers may tout their supposed revelations, but if what they say doesn’t measure up to what has been revealed in the closed canon of Scripture, then it should be quickly and fully rejected as false (1 Thessalonians 5:21). God has closed the book on His revelation to man (Revelation 22:18-19). In contending for the faith, the believer in Christ needs to be ever vigilant to sift what he hears through a “what-does-the-Bible-say” filter (1 Thessalonians 5:21).
Church history is filled with example of those who have contended for the faith. Jude himself would have witnessed many such examples. Peter suffered much in contending for the faith. Paul did too. Foxes Book of Martyrs is replete with such stories. John Frith’s is one of them. He died contending for the truth that a man is justified by faith alone. England in the 1530s was a dangerous place for a Bible-believing protestant. God had raised up men to translate and teach the Bible, but that work faced fierce opposition. King Henry VIII did not hesitate to punish, even by death, those who could no longer be regarded as loyal Catholics. John Frith studied at Oxford. He was saved and became one of England’s greatest evangelical scholars. Sensing his life to be endangered, he fled to Europe, but in 1532 he returned to England knowing full well that his reforming work could lead to his capture and death. He attempted to keep a low profile but was betrayed and arrested in October 1532. Imprisoned in the Tower of London, he was subjected to intense pressure from Catholic theologians and bishops to recant his gospel faith. Instead, while imprisoned, he penned his views on Communion, knowing full well that his own words could be used against him. Frith was tried before many examiners and bishops who produced Frith’s own writings as evidence for his supposed heretical views. He was sentenced to death by fire but offered a pardon if he positively affirmed two questions: Do you believe in purgatory, and do you believe in transubstantiation? He replied that neither purgatory nor transubstantiation could be proven by Holy Scriptures, and thus he was condemned as a heretic and was burned at the stake on 4 July 1533 at Smithfield, London.
He died, but in contending for the faith, he ignited and bolstered the faith of others (Philippians 1:12-14). God would have us, His children, to contend for the faith. People contend for many lesser causes, but to contend for the faith is to fight the good fight (2 Timothy 4:7). Jude 21-22 speaks to how we can be prepared to contend for the faith. Jude 23-24 speaks to how we can do it.
The truth that is powerful to save and transform lives is a truth worth contending for.Anonymous
ONCE TO EVERY MAN AND NATION
Once to every man and nation
Comes the moment to decide,
In the strife of truth with falsehood,
For the good or evil side;
Some great cause, God’s new Messiah,
Offering each the bloom or blight,
And the choice goes by forever
Twixt that darkness and that light.
Then to side with truth is noble,
When we share her wretched crust,
Ere her cause bring fame and profit,
And ‘tis prosperous to be just;
Then it is the brave man chooses
While the coward stands aside,
Till the multitude make virtue
Of the faith they had denied.
By the light of burning martyrs,
Christ, Thy bleeding feet we track,
Toiling up new Calvaries ever
With the cross that turns not back;
New occasions teach new duties,
Time makes ancient good uncouth;
They must upward still and onward,
Who would keep abreast of truth.
Though the cause of evil prosper,
Yet ‘tis truth alone is strong;
Though her portion be the scaffold,
And upon the throne be wrong:
Yet that scaffold sways the future,
And, behind the dim unknown,
Standeth God within the shadow
Keeping watch above His own.